|By Tess Townsend, The Day, New London, Conn.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The tape was first placed there on
More than two months later,
"I miss everything about it," Photie said Sunday while sitting in the passenger seat of her son's car during her first visit to the property since the fire.
"I can't explain it," she added quietly. "You know, the fire keeps running through my head."
Willett and Photie spent the night of the fire at the house of their neighbor,
"The way things fell into place after the fire is phenomenal," said Willett, an HIV prevention counselor at
He said people cooked them meals and gave them clothing and other necessities.
After a week at a Motel 6 that was paid for with funds from the
He ducked under a strip of caution tape Sunday as he led a tour of the destroyed six-room ranch. He said the fire started when the furnace burst into flames, spreading through the house and consuming virtually all of the family's belongings.
Barefoot, Willett and his mother got out safely with their dog, according to Hughes, but they never found their cat. Willett said the family may rebuild the house or may just sell the property.
The first room in the house was Willett's bedroom as a child, until his sister moved out, he said. He walked across the damp embers Sunday to the dining room. To the right were cabinets filled with dishes, now blackened, a collection belonging to Photie. In the center of the room sat a table.
"I remember so many dinners with our family from
An insurance snafu has complicated the replacement of the destroyed items, Willett said. In December or January, he said, he had received a letter from his insurance company stating it would no longer provide coverage for properties in
The result was that the contents of the house were not insured, though the structure itself was covered through the mortgage lender's insurance, according to Willett.
Hughes said the insurance shortfall is one reason she and a group of Willett's co-workers, friends and neighbors have planned a fundraiser for late next month.
"Just imagine your whole life just wiped out in a matter of four hours," she said.
The event, which will include dinner, live music, a silent auction and raffles, is set for
Aside from community support, Photie said, a sense of humor helps she and her son cope.
Just before heading back to the apartment to make Easter dinner, she stepped out of the car to mention that she especially missed her hat collection.
Willett asked her whether she wanted to go into the house, but she declined.
"You wanna see my room? I didn't clean it," he quipped.
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